Oct 3 2010

The Communion of Saints and Creatures

Snow-Goose-landing“Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you–the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground–so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it.”  (God’s word to Noah in Genesis 8:17)

Today is World Communion Sunday.  On this day Christians worldwide share Communion and also reflect on how we are all one in the Body of Christ.  The Lord’s Supper should remind us that despite different beliefs and practices that sometimes separate us we are still united in Christ.

Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Francis.  Francis of Assisi has come to be known as the patron saint of both ecology and animals.  Many churches have a blessing of animals on October 4.  St. Francis was known to preach to the animals and considered them his brothers and sisters.  He believed that God loved the animals and that so should we.

I find it interesting that World Communion Sunday and the Feast of St. Francis are joined next to each other on the calendar this year.  One reminds us of our communion with other believers while the other reminds us of our communion with other creatures.  In the world we live in, both reminders are needed.

Brown-Bear-163Over the past few days I’ve been watching the BBC series “Life.”  Rob recommended this series to me earlier this year so I bought the DVD set.  As I have watched the various segments of this series I have been reminded that we humans truly do share a bond with all of God’s creatures.  We tend to focus on what sets humans apart from other creatures but there is really far more that links us with other creatures.

It is certainly worth noting that we all share the same Creator.  The same God who made us also created the birds, reptiles, mammals, insects and fish.   We also, of course, share the same planet.  We are all dependent on the same basic things—the sun, the air, water, and food.  We all depend on our parents’ nurture and protection in infancy and we all have a strong will to live and reproduce. 

I think that our lives would be enhanced in many ways if we Christians could grasp not just the concept of the “communion of saints” but our communion with all of Creation as well.  It would change how we see Creation and how we live out our lives on this planet.  God has already established this communion; it is now our task to take part in it.


(The top image is a snow goose I photographed in New Mexico and the bottom a brown bear or grizzly photographed in Alaska.)

Aug 30 2009

Water, Bread and Wine

bread and wineI took the picture above this past Wednesday prior to our Vespers service. I thought I might be able to use it for our church’s website.  Once I got to looking at it, however, I was reminded of an important truth about nature.  The God who created the world and made it good, has also made it holy.

The churches I have grown up in focus on two ordinances or sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Both of these are powerful symbols that portray in graphic fashion the love of God made visible in Jesus Christ.  What we may sometimes miss is that both holy acts make use of basic natural elements.  Baptism, no matter how it is performed, utilizes water.  In Communion we partake of bread that has come from grain grown in the earth; we drink wine or juice that that has been produced by grapes. 

For me this is a reminder that there is a sacramental quality to nature.  In what God has made we have the opportunity to experience His grace.  I am certainly not a pantheist who believes that God is to be equated with the world but I do feel that God permeates Creation and that because He made it and because He cares for it, it is holy.

In God’s hands ordinary water becomes the fountain of life.  Common everyday bread becomes a symbol of the broken body of Christ.  Wine becomes more than a drink, it represents Christ’s blood poured out for our forgiveness.  Remembering this might open the door to a sacramental outlook on nature.  Many a poet and hymnist have taken this path, and so did Jesus.  He found in the flowers of the field and birds of the air reminders of God’s providence and care.  He showed us that water, bread and wine can become a means of grace.

The challenge before us is to discover and celebrate God’s presence in the ordinary things of life.  Just look around you…